Pod-Canon is an ongoing tribute to the greatest individual comedy-related podcast episodes of all time.
As readers of this column perhaps know by now, I am a fan of podcast episodes that begin pleasantly enough but quickly devolve (or evolve, depending on your perspective) into crazed psychodramas full of tension, veiled and not so veiled insults, and intense conflicts. To put things in Real World terms, I love to listen to what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.
That happens very early in the Anne Heche, Sandra Oh, and Onur Tukel episode of Doug Loves Movies. What follows is a fascinatingly tense, stressful podcast (you might want to pop an Ativan before listening to help you deal with the stress, as I assume all Doug Benson fans are into mild benzos) that illustrates in gruesome detail what happens when keeping it real as a podcast guest goes wrong.
Unfortunately, Tukel and Heche’s idea of “keeping it real” involves being really annoying and really aggressive and not backing down when they’re called on their shit like they really should. Tukel and Heche show future Doug Loves Movies guests exactly how not to behave when you’re a guest on the podcast. For starters, don’t try to upstage Doug Benson in front of his audience on his podcast. Just don’t! You’re a fool if you think you’re to outwit Benson in his home territory, on his turf. And don’t be obnoxious enough to even make the attempt. Then again, Benson had to realize that there was at least a 50/50 chance that the episode would be a disaster when he booked eccentric filmmaker Onur Tukel, who had already gotten kicked off the show for being a jerk the last time he was a guest, and Anne Heche, who at this point is far better known for her personal idiosyncrasies and eccentricities than for her sometimes impressive but scattershot acting career.
The danger when you book Anne Heche as a guest for anything is that she’s going to act like Anne Heche. Alternately, the great appeal of booking a guest like Anne Heche is that she’s totally going to flake out and start acting like Anne Heche. Separately, Tukel, who at this point you probably know best, and also only, as a guy who was a real asshole on Doug Loves Movies, and Heche would each pose huge threats to the orderly running of a podcast. Together, they are a twin hurricane of misplaced aggression and weird stabs at humor that could not backfire more spectacularly.
The weird, bad vibes begin almost right off the bat, as Heche and Tukel talk and talk and talk, sometimes at the same time, sometimes over each other, and sometimes over Benson, who is not having it at all. “I’m gonna get kicked off this show no problem,” Heche brays early in the podcast, in what turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Part of the tension is attributable to residual resentment from Tukel’s last appearance on the show, but a lot of it comes from Heche, who tries to steamroll over Benson and form a conspiratorial bond with the crowd and only ends up seeming like a sad parody of herself.
It’s clear from the beginning that the audience is on Benson’s side (this is, after all, not Anne and Onur Love Talking) but rather than accurately gauge the temperature of the room and react accordingly, the pair instead just doubles down on its hammy, self-absorbed shtick until Benson is apoplectic. “Dude, we’re more interesting,” Heche “jokes” at one point as to why she and Tukel should be the focus of the show instead of Benson, but the audience strongly disagrees, and things only get more awkward from there. “My advice is get it the fuck together because you’re making yourself seem awful,” Benson all but yells at Heche, giving the words the cadence of a joke even though he’s clearly being brutally honest. Heche does come off terribly, as does Tukel, but they seem to be the only ones who don’t know it.
By the end of his and Heche’s appearance, Tukel seems to have lost it completely and is hollering “You’re a piece of shit, Doug Benson!” in a furious rage. Tukel and Heche are kicked off the panel before the half-hour mark, and while a lot of podcasters would write off an episode like that as unusable, Benson stubbornly keeps on going with Sandra Oh (who sat politely while her collaborators/fellow panelists lost their shit) as the primary guest, augmented by some fill-ins from the audience.
The rest of the podcast isn’t anywhere near as morbidly compelling as its first twenty-five minutes. How could it be? Things are particularly tense immediately after Tukel and Heche depart but Benson, ever the professional, just keeps plugging right along until he’s wrestled a proper episode out of all that chaos and conflict. This episode starts off like Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf but ends more like @midnight and while tonal shifts like that would ruin most podcasts, Benson holds it all together through sheer force of will. It’s his show, and he’s not about to let something as minor as multiple guests’ screaming, unhinged hostility throw him off his game, literally and figuratively.
Nathan Rabin is the author of five books, including Weird Al: The Book (with Al Yankovic) and the recently released Ebook “Short Read”, 7 Days In Ohio: Trump, The Gathering of The Juggalos And The Summer Everything Went Insane.